Multi-Culturalism and Cross-Culturalism

Multi-Culturalism and Cross-Culturalism
Arguably, the Department of Defense is one of the most diverse elements of our society. The
American Military prides itself on being closer to a true meritocracy than other segments of our
society. While the military can be justifiably proud of its record in managing its diversity and
making diversity an institutional strength, it must remain vigilant against growing complacent.
The DoD faces great challenges in being responsive to the varying needs of its almost 1.4 million
active duty service members and their more than 1.9 million family members, many of whom
come from vastly different cultures and backgrounds. In no area is this challenge greater than in
the Department’s response to domestic violence.
Domestic violence is an extremely complex crime that crosses all socioeconomic, age,
gender, ethnic, racial and cultural strata. The root cause of domestic violence is one individual’s
desire to exert power and control over another person, by any means necessary. However, it is
important to recognize that social conditioning, as well as deeply held cultural values and beliefs
can influence whether and where victims seek help and how abusers respond to intervention.
Cultural awareness, cultural sensitivity and an appropriate level of competence in dealing with
these issues are critical in the civilian, as well as the military community. However, because of
the military’s worldwide presence and its greater levels of multi-cultural and cross-cultural
exchange, cultural awareness, sensitivity and competence are even more important for those who
deal with uniformed personnel and their families. The Task Force is not recommending
“special” or preferential treatment for anyone based on his/her background. What we are asking
for is simply an acknowledgement and understanding that cultural background influences how all
of us bring our own complex perceptions and experiences – cultural, religious, class, rank
gender, etc. – to our ideas about domestic violence. Therefore, we are saying that it is not only
acceptable, but also often necessary, to treat different people in different ways. Treating
someone from one cultural background in exactly the same way we treat someone from another
cultural background may actually result in unequal treatment.
- Defense Task Force on Domestic Violence
Third Year Report 2003, page xi